Payback: Debt and The Shadow Side of Wealth

"Which of your own futures would you like to visit?", asks the Spirit.  "I got more than one?",  Scrooge asks.  

The Spirit waves his briefcase and Scrooge barely recognizes his future self.  He’s gaunt and frantic — and pushing a wheelbarrow full of cash, as he watches his future self try to exchange this mountain of money for a can of dog food.  But it’s no deal.  

"You’re experiencing a moment of hyper inflation", Says the Spirit,  "This has happened several times since the history of money.  In fact, money just melts away like the illusion it always has been".  "This is terrible!",  Scrooge whimpers,  "Spirit show me no more!".  

The Spirit waves his briefcase again and Scrooge finds himself in a cheerful bustling medium sized city.  All the people are riding on bicycles or driving around in compressed air vehicles and using power from wave generation machines and from solar installations from on  tops and sides of their buildings.  There is scrooge himself looking very fit in a hemp suit.  Signing several enormous checks for conservation organizations.  Miraculous changes have been brought about through microeconomics, where by many amounts are lended at fair interest rates to very poor people and also through massive and voluntary debt cancelations on the part of rich nations. 

"How probable is this future", asks Scrooge.  "Not very probable", the Spirit admits, "…or not yet". 

Scrooge clutches the Spirit’s arm which shrinks, collapses, and dwindles down into a bedpost, his own bedpost. 

"What a dream!",  he thinks, "but so far, only a dream.  I have time to make amends". 

In the non-fictional world in which you and I do something called existing and Scrooge does not. We been discussed various ways of looking at debt. Like all our financial arrangements, and like all our rules of moral conduct — in fact, like language itself — notions about debt form part of the elaborate imaginative construct that is human society, because it is a mental construct.

How we think about it changes how it works.  Maybe its time for us to think about it differently.   Maybe we need to count things and add things up and measure things in a different way.  In fact, maybe we need to count and weigh and measure different things together.  Is this likely to happen?  My best offer is maybe.  

Scrooge climbs out of his bed and goes to the window.  ”There’s the world… its very beautiful what with the trees and sky and so forth.  It use to look solid but now it appears fragile like a reflection on water, a breath of wind could ripple it and it could vanish.  I don’t really own anything”, Scrooge thinks, “…not even my body, everything I have is only borrowed.  I’m not really rich at all. I’m heavily in debt.  How do I even begin to pay back what I owe.  Where do should I start….”.

- Margaret Atwood